The Caribbean: Resolute and Steadfast for a Strong #ArmsTreaty

July 25 2012, 1:11 PM by Oistein Thorsen

Coming from the Caribbean, it’s just unimaginable that the global trade in conventional arms has gone unregulated for this long, while bananas, sugar and rum continue to be bound by restrictive and discriminatory trade rules.

Written by Tomaisha Hendricks, from CDRAV.

After 14 days of United Nations Member States negotiating the text of a legally binding arms trade treaty, intense lobbying is still underway as States work assiduously in both formal and informal sessions to ensure that their interests are secured in the treaty. Ambassador Eden Charles of Trinidad and Tobago, is the Lead Negotiator for all 14 CARICOM Members States.

Caribbean countries are not producers of arms, neither are they major importers. Yet, the impact of the diversion of arms, from the legal to the illicit market continues to fuel serious gun violence in communities throughout the region. As far as CARICOM is concerned, the scope of the proposed arms trade treaty must include Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), ammunition, parts and components and technology in order to impact current and future threats to the region’s security.

While the treaty is supposed to regulate global trade in conventional arms, CARICOM also believes that it must also maintain a human rights and humanitarian focus. Therefore, CARICOM supports broad and rigorous criteria that oblige State Parties to deny a transfer where there is a risk that such transfers would lead to the violation of International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights. Armed violence and gender-based violence are serious concerns for Caribbean people.

CARICOM states have benefited from having a common coordinated position on the elements of the treaty. Of course, this is primarily due to the commitment which Caribbean States and NGOs made during the preparatory stages of the process. Indeed, the three (3) Regional Preparatory Committee Meetings on the Arms Trade Treaty hosted by the Caribbean Coalition for Development and the Reduction of Armed Violence (CDRAV) in conjunction with the governments of Australia, Trinidad and Tobago and St. Vincent and the Grenadines really set the foundation for CARICOM’s participation in the diplomatic conference.

Yet, with precisely three (3) more UN working days to go, there is still so much to be done. The skeptics have not relented in their plot against a strong treaty and one of the most powerful countries in the global arms trade remain opposed to the inclusion into the treaty of the most important elements for CARICOM: SALW and ammunition. How the events of the next few days unfold remains unknown, but we can rest assured that CARICOM will continue to push for a strong treaty, which can potentially curb the indiscriminate proliferation of small arms and ammunition into our communities.

CARICOM and NGO representatives continue to be committed to lobby governments in capitals to remain resolute and steadfast in efforts to protect the region from the deleterious effects of SALW and their ammunition.